Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Versailles - Jubilee (2010)

I have to admit, my big draw to visual kei is the gorgeous boys unique cultural style; while many of the bands have an interesting sound, very few of them have actually produced great albums. Versailles' debut was guilty of this with its unsatisfying take on European power metal and failure to capitalize on the prowess that guitarist Hizaki showed on his other projects. Yet, the ep that preceded Jubilee renewed my interest in the band with its two quite attractive songs, and I haven't had any new visual kei in a while to keep my inner otaku in check, so here we go.

"God Palace -Method of Inheritance-" starts it off on a strong foot with the Rhapsody in Fire flag at full mast - there's even a cheesy English spoken part! It's a sprawling song with a good amount of diversity and energy that only lets up throughout its ten minutes for the previously-mentioned speaking, but, while I never found myself bored, I really couldn't remember any of it when it finished. All of the instruments sound excellent: clear, yet punchy; the singer has a great tone (although some variety would go a long way); and the atmosphere is solid yet not overpowering, but, ultimately, the song speeds by without throwing any great riffs in to anchor you between the gratuitous soloing. Most of the album follows suit, with some sparse extra elements helping to keep it from blending together too much - "Rosen Schwert" is an early example of this, and "Gekkakou" even features harsh vocals and some chugging riffs that verge on death metal.

For a change of pace (and perspective), "Amorphous" brake-checks the listener and takes them for a spin through what I can only communicate as a Far East take on radio alt-rock. I'm guessing it's supposed to be the thoughtful, sentimental track, but the "catchy" acoustic guitar and violin refrain is about as heartfelt as daytime soaps. After that, we get a romp through fields hazy with the pollen of jigging flowers and starlight, courtesy of "Reminiscence," which is about as cheesy as power metal instrumentals get. It's not the worst I've ever heard (bonus points for not being the US national anthem), and there are some elements in it that I wouldn't mind hearing in a song that doesn't make me cringe, but you can safely skip this one as well. After those two, the rest are a relief, and you'll barely notice the martial, Luca Tirillian bombast of "Catharsis", the light flamenco on "The Umbrella of Glass," the actually pleasant violin ballad, "Serenade," or the cinematic spoken finale because you'll be so happy they're nothing like the black hole of joy in the middle of the album.

This is definitely one of the better visual kei albums that doesn't feature Mana (which is understandable, since no one can feasibly be hotter than him, ever) - the production is fantastic, and all of the songs besides the two terrible ones are worth listening to - but it really boils down to whether you like the Euro sound or not. Even if I can't hang onto any of the tracks in my head, I enjoyed my time, and I will definitely be looking forward to more from them.

Highlights: everything after you've heard "Amorphous"

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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